In order to keep up with Jeffrey’s ongoing interest with George Washington, we went to Valley Forge. The park holds a birthday party for George every year, complete with historic reenactors, a capella singers, and a cake made from Martha Washington’s recipe. (Which I obtained a copy of, and which starts with 40 eggs and 5 pounds of butter and moves on from there. People must have had high demands of cake in Ye Dayes of Yore.)
The best part, however, is that Jeffrey and the other children there were all able to join the Continental Army for the afternoon. This activity is done at Valley Forge on the 1st Saturday of every month, and it appeared to be done in conjunction with the local Boy Scouting organization. Kids were divided into groups by age, and given toy muskets to do drills with.
Batallion leaders in period uniform taught the kids to march and shoulder their firelocks in the right way. They were accompanied by a long tail of picture-snapping parents.
When they reached the parade grounds, everybody “loaded” their muskets, attatched the “bayonets,” and then pointed them at an invisible enemy while screaming. HUZZAH!
Kids were told up front that if they pointed their gun at another person, or poked or hit someone, it would be taken away. Jeffrey took this very seriously.
After drilling, General Washington did an inspection of the troops . . .
Deliciously in character, he kept making comments like “I must speak with the quartermaster about the irregularities in uniform here” and “I’m a bit dismayed with the age of these new recruits.”
Kids who participate in this activity for 3 months get promoted to sergeant, and General Washington promotes them, and gives a little speech, and talks about “writing to Congress to ensure the proper payment of $12 per annum” or some such. And keep in mind that he wasn’t just George — he was George in 1777. The man was probably a little too into his job; later I saw him pigeonholing people and giving long talks about threshing methods at Mount Vernon.
On this trip, be read:
George Washington’s Teeth by Deborah Chandra, illus. Brock Cole. Probably the most accessible book about Washington for preschoolers. A series of rhymed verses recount the loss, one by one, of Washington’s teeth during the major events of his life. Brock Cole’s detailed comic illustrations are gorgeous as usual. Oh, and get this: he apparently never wore wooden teeth.